Former Prime Minister Yasuhiro Nakasone, a legendary figure in Japanese politics who turned 100 on Sunday, has expressed hope that “serious efforts” will be made to amend the postwar Constitution.
Nakasone, a conservative who served as prime minister from November 1982 to November 1987, is the second one-time prime minister to live to 100. The first was Naruhiko Higashikuninomiya, who died in 1990 at the age of 102.
With Japan set to enter a new era next year after Emperor Akihito abdicates, Nakasone said he feels “deep emotion” for having lived in four eras — Taisho, Showa, Heisei and the one to begin next May with the ascension of Crown Prince Naruhito to the Chrysanthemum Throne.
Born in Gunma Prefecture on May 27, 1918, Nakasone graduated from Tokyo Imperial University (now University of Tokyo) and was an officer in the Imperial Japanese Navy during World War II.
“I entered politics following Japan’s defeat in war, but it was a bliss that I was able to work to rebuild Japan. I am overwhelmed by a flood of emotion when I think about the changing times and the life I lived over the past 100 years,” he said.
Touching on the U.S.-drafted Constitution, which he has pushed to revise ever since he became a politician, Nakasone said, “Both the ruling and opposition parties should make serious efforts to stir up public opinion and to seek to create a Constitution that involves true public participation.”
In particular, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is pushing to rewrite war-renouncing Article 9 — the cornerstone of Japan’s pacifist identity after World War II that conservatives view as a humiliating imposition left by the U.S.-led Occupation.
Amending the supreme law requires approval by two-thirds of the Diet’s upper and lower chambers to initiate a national referendum, which can be approved by a simple majority of voters.
Media polls have shown the public is divided about revising the Constitution.
According to Nakasone, the key to longevity is to lead an orderly life and “insatiable” intellectual curiosity, among other things.
He also said, as a politician, he has always worked hard as if he was a “defendant standing in court,” awaiting the judgment of history.
According to people close to him, Nakasone broke his wrist earlier this year but is recovering at home.